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Pushed to the limit
ODU holds on to win eighth straight tournament title
Posted: Saturday March 06, 1999 09:07 PM
RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- Pressed to the limit like they hadn't been in eight years, Old Dominion at first struggled -- then played like the No. 5 team in the nation.
Running off six straight points immediately after blowing a 15-point lead, the Lady Monarchs hung on to beat East Carolina 73-67 in the Colonial Athletic Association championship Saturday, their eighth tournament title in as many seasons.
But this one, the Lady Monarchs' 83rd straight league victory and 24th in as many tournament games, didn't come with the swagger most of the earlier ones have. Instead, coach Wendy Larry said she may even have seen fear.
"I think we rocked back on our heels a little bit," Larry said of a drought in which her team missed 22 of 26 shots, allowing the Pirates to finally tie the game at 37 with 12:59 to play. "I think there was a point when we started to play not to lose instead of playing to win."
Jessica Williams' 6-footer in the lane ended the dry spell, and when Williams missed her attempt at a three-point play, Hamchetou Maiga rebounded and scored on a putback to make it 41-37. Mery Andrade then pushed the lead to six when she took a steal the length of the court for a layup.
The Pirates twice closed to within one, but Natalie Diaz and Andrade answered with baskets. The same two also scored after the lead was cut to three in the final minute, Andrade making two free throws with 21.5 seconds left, Diaz scoring on a breakaway to make it 72-67 with 9.5 seconds left.
"We tend to be a little bit too relaxed," Diaz said. "It's good that they came out and kept attacking us. I think we need that right now."
The Pirates (16-13), who had beaten Richmond in triple overtime only about 17 hours before tipoff, made their challenge against huge odds, but in the same way they erased double-digit deficits in their two prior victories.
Trailing 19-4 after 10 minutes, they were within 31-26 by halftime. And when Waynetta Veney made two free throws with 12:59 left, it was 37-37.
"We always were confident. We always thought we could win," Veney said. "We never got down even when we got down. We always kept our heads up."
But then Old Dominion rose to the challenge, and had just enough.
"Ultimate respect to East Carolina," Larry said, "for the heart and the way they battled today. They left it all out there on the floor."
The victory margin was the Lady Monarchs' smallest in the tournament since a 5-point victory in the 1991-92 championship, their first year in the league, and Pirates coach Dee Gibson said a portent of battles ahead.
"Old Dominion better watch out," said the first-year coach, who loses only one player. "They better watch out because we're coming at 'em."
Diaz led Old Dominion with 21 points, 15 in the second half. Andrade added 15 points, nine rebounds and six of the Lady Monarchs' 15 steals. Maiga added 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Allison Trapp led the Pirates with 22 points, 14 in the second half, and Danielle Melvin and Teana McKiver each had 13. Melvin added 13 rebounds.
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